Concerns as Newspapers Close in Nepal's Troubled Terai Region

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is very concerned about the increasing obstacles to press freedom and diversity of information in Nepal as news outlets and journalists come under violent attack and editors in the Terai region close 18 daily and weekly newspapers due to a shortage of supplies.

According to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), an IFJ affiliate, the Jhapa-based editors and publishers decided to close six dailies and 12 weeklies on February 22 as an indefinite program of “bands”, or strikes, led by led by the United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) and the Federal Republic National Front (FRNF) enters its second week.

“We are unable to get the necessary materials for printing and distribution like paper, ink, fuel, electricity,” said FNJ Jhapa chapter president Krishna Humagain.

The National Union of Journalists (Nepal), an IFJ affiliate, reports that all newspapers published in the Jhapa district have now closed down for an indefinite period. According to the NUJN, the closures affect Arjun Dhara, Bibechana, Purbanchal, Jana Sambad, Mechi Times and Pruba Sandesh (dailies) and Jana Andola Swadhin Sambad, Naulo Aawaz, Malika, Gaunka Khabar, Barun, Saajha Manch, Peoples Time, Naya Kamana and Swantantra Jana Awwaz (weeklies).

The IFJ is concerned by reports that many news outlets fear threats and attacks by the Federal Limbhuwan State Council, a local organisation of the Limbu people who are agitating for independence.

The harsh effects of the supply shortage have been reported in all areas of the Terai, with most publications facing closure if the situation does not change in the next three to four days.

“The closure of media outlets in the volatile Terai region comes at a critical time in Nepal. It is very worrying that, just six weeks out from scheduled national elections, ordinary people’s access to information will be limited,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“The IFJ also continues to be very concerned about violent incidents against journalists and media institutions, and the negative impacts for the media’s free and fair presentation of a diversity of views.”

The IFJ joins the FNJ in condemning efforts by a range of groups to intimidate the media and stifle people’s the right to information.

The IFJ and the FNJ urge the interim Government to take action to assist in the provision of materials necessary for print outlets to continue publishing at this critical time.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries